“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
– Mary Pickford
C’mon, c’mon. It’s only January 2, and some of us have already broken our New Year’s resolutions. Don’t fret – certainly don’t give up. Mary Pickford, in the quote above, has it right. Another way of saying the same thing is the old Texas adage, “It’s not about how often a cowboy falls off his horse. What matters is how often he gets back on.”
As we wrote in an editorial last year, psychology professor David DeSteno estimates that by Jan. 8, 25 percent of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned. By the end of the year, more than 90 percent will remain unfulfilled. It does not have to be that way.
It’s clear that audacious but attainable goals are the first step toward transformational success, and routine and commitment are early followers. We want our intentions and actions to become habits and our habits then to become rituals — activities we perform seemingly without conscious effort, such as brushing our teeth or showering daily (You are bathing daily, aren’t you?).
It has become fashionable these days to talk about “grit” – that ephemeral quality of perseverance through tribulation. Previous generations called it stamina, tenacity or determination. A more apt, but less-common term, we believe, is “conation.” Defined simply, it is the will to succeed, to “find a way” around, above, or through any obstacles that impede our forward or desirable progress.
The good news about grit is that it can be learned, practiced and honed.
Angela Duckworth has authored an instant New York Times bestseller entitled, simply, “GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
It’s a book well worth reading – especially as 364 days still remain in the new year. Personally, we’d like to see habitual reading on more lists of New Year’s resolutions.
A personal recommendation, perhaps to help you get started, is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” which has already sold more than 1 million copies. New York Times columnist David Brooks, in a cover blurb, describes Dr. Peterson’s “gift” (that’s what it really is) thusly: “The Peterson way is a harsh way, but it is an idealistic way – and for millions of young men, it turns out to be the perfect antidote to the cocktail of coddling and accusation in which they are raised.”
Perfect reading for Week One of the new year.
To be sure, there is no magic in making New Year’s resolutions. The worthy endeavor – the act of taking stock of our lives, of mapping out the journey from where we are to where we wish to be – is a positive gesture of desire and good faith.
Following this declaration of intent, what matters is the work of rededicating ourselves day after day, week to week, even when progress seems slow or setbacks seem insurmountable.
It is possible; success is ours for the taking – or, more accurately, for the making. Good habits which have their roots in resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise – may not make success inevitable, but they make it far more probable.
The message? Keep getting back on that horse …